Compare the use of verisimilitude in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Verisimilitude refers to how closely a fictitious literary work resembles reality and is considered plausible to the reader. Verisimilitude is essential in a work of fiction to convince the audience that the events taking place in the story are possible, given that the reader has suspended disbelief.

When examining the verisimilitude of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, one can delineate a stark contrast in reference to the purpose of both fictional works. Swift's fantasy story, which includes six-inch citizens, giants, floating islands, and talking horses, is an allegory. His goal was to satirize European culture, particularly the English government. The audience understands that the events throughout the story are contrived, but serve an satirical purpose. In contrast, Daniel Defoe's story is more rooted in reality and could have actually taken place. Crusoe's captivity, escape, shipwreck, and survival are believable throughout the story. Defoe pays particularly close attention to detail, which gives the reader a realistic impression of the novel.

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In both these works, the authors describe fictional events in a detailed, realistic style.  The key difference is that Daniel Defoe, in Robinson Crusoe, wants to trick the reader into thinking the events in his novel really took place, whereas Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travels, wants the reader to understand his story as an allegory.

The events of Robinson Crusoe are remarkable, fascinating, extraordinary--but totally possible in the real world.  A man is stranded on a remote island and manages to survive through wit, hard work, and some good fortune.  Defoe's genius is that he tells his story with such realistic detail that we are inclined to believe it as fact.

The events of Gulliver's Travels, by contrast, are obviously contrived: a land of midgets, a land of giants, a land of talking horses, etc.  Although Swift does a great job of describing his inventions, no intelligent reader takes his stories as fact.  Rather, they are parodies of various aspects of humanity.